June 12, 2011
WRITTEN BY SHARON ROBB
Six weeks after coming to the aid of a fallen triathlete at the 70.3 St. Croix Half Ironman and missing a Hawaii Ironman slot, SOFLO’s Rich Nixon earned his eighth trip to Kona-Kailua on Sunday in Cambridge, Md.
Nixon, 47, of Coconut Creek, qualified with a second-place finish in his age group at the 2011 Subaru Ironman 70.3 EagleMan Triathlon in 4 hours, 27 minutes and 59 seconds.
Nixon was 15th after the swim, third after the bike and moved into second after the run.
His splits were 33:44, 2:17:07 and 1:32:52. His transition splits were 2:02 and 2:14. The course was a 1.2-mile river swim, 56-mile windswept bike and 13.1-mile run with no relief of shade.
It was do-or-die for Nixon to qualify for Kona. He had added motivation. Nixon was joined by his wife Toni and daughter Morgan, a SOFLO swimmer, at the race.
“I did feel pressure oddly enough,” Nixon said. “I love to go and race Kona, but more than that I enjoy taking the family there and spending good quality time and fun time with them. Everybody loves Kona. I felt that kind of weight on my shoulders. I wanted to have the opportunity to bring my family.”
Competing in a half-Ironman was even more of a challenge for Nixon to qualify.
“I am happy about this one,” Nixon said. “It’s the first time I’ve used a half to qualify for Kona. When you race a half and have either one or two slots to go for, you have to bring your “A” game. If not, that’s it. I actually think it is harder to qualify at a half than a full.”
Nixon had no problem bouncing back after St. Croix. He recovered well and resumed training immediately.
“After doing such a hard race like St. Croix, when I go to other halves, they look a little bit easier even though it was extremely hot today,” Nixon said. “I had no problem with recovery after St. Croix. I got back right after. I knew I had to get to work if I wanted to qualify.”
Nixon knew who he was up against and followed his game plan throughout the race.
“I knew there was one guy, an ex-pro in my age group who also swam in college,” Nixon said. “I knew I was going to be getting out of the water and would have some time to make up there. I gave the swim my best effort without going too deep and then laid it down on the bike and the run. The run happens to be his weak point. Around Mile 9, I caught up with him. I knew I had it then.”
When Nixon and his family arrived earlier in the week, it was 102 degrees. However, he was prepared for the heat. There were also strong headwinds throughout the bike race.
“The heat made it a little challenging,” Nixon said. “There wasn’t a lick of shade on the run. We were running on roads and highways in the middle of nowhere. Training in Florida I felt I had an advantage. I would start my bike rides later in the morning to catch the heat and I would run the hottest part of the day to get myself used to it in case it was a hot day. If not, I would still have an advantage if it was in the mid-80s it would feel like a cool spring day to me.”
At this stage of his competitive career, Nixon knows how to adjust to any situation in a race.
“I do feel I am getting smarter the older I get,” Nixon said. “I have a good grasp on what I need to do. There is no guesswork. I have it all laid it out in my head.”
Nixon plans to take a week off and spend time with his family in Washington, D.C. He calls it “a mental and physical break.” He plans to return to training next week and may do another half-Ironman before Kona.
More than 2,000 triathletes, including twenty elite men, competed.
John Kenny of Bridgeport, Pa. was the first man out of the Choptank River in 26:24. Pre-race favorite Chris Legh completed the swim in 30:46 and then dropped out of the race.
TJ Tokkakson of Des Moines, Iowa took the lead during the bike portion with a 2:03:41 bike split, went on to lead the run and won the men’s title in 3:54:39. His run split was 1:22:16. Richie Cunningham of Austin, Texas moved from ninth to second overall with a 1:16:56 run split to finish in 3:57:43. Russian Stanislav Krylov of Clermont was third in 3:58:13.
Reigning Ironman world champion Mirinda Carfrae of Boulder, Colo. and Australia won the women’s title in 4:15:31. She was third after the swim in 28:52 and bike in 2:22:15 and moved ahead with a blistering 1:21:39 run split.
Ninety-one-year-old man sets triathlon record
Charles Futrell, 91, of The Villages, became the oldest man to finish a USA Triathlon-sanctioned event Saturday in Clermont.
Futrell completed the second race of the Central Florida Triathlon Series in 2 hours, 18 minutes and 38 seconds. The course was a 440-yard swim, 10-mile bike and 3-mile run.
Sharon Robb can be reached at email@example.com